Kevin Allen is not your typical teenager. Instead of on a sports field or at a bonfire, you’re more likely to find him giving input at a Juneau School Board meeting, sitting at a committee hearing at the Alaska State Capitol or commenting during a Native Issues Forum at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. And he’ll probably be wearing a suit.
“I want to look like the results I want,” the 18-year-old said.
Allen owns three suits, several suit jackets and about 20 ties. He doesn’t just break them out for special occasions; he’s been wearing a suit every day to school since second semester started.
“If I’m going to be going into positions or jobs where one needs to look professional, I suppose I need to start getting used to it,” he said.
Also unlike most teenagers, Allen knows exactly what he wants to do in life — hold public office.
But he didn’t know this a year ago. What led him to the decision was being the TMHS student government representative on the Juneau School Board, a position he held his senior year and took very seriously.
Allen stayed for entire meetings, which sometimes lasted more than five hours and adjourn around 11 p.m.
He said his experience with extracurricular activities like Model UN and Drama Debate Forensics taught him “to be as active as possible in every single meet or competition that you’re at, so you have to stay at the meeting no matter what the topic is about, and I wanted to apply that to my (school board) position.”
“I also wanted to know exactly what was going on, and it was something I found fun doing,” Allen said.
He didn’t just speak during the student report section of the meeting; Allen often raised his hand to get noticed and weighed in on other issues before the board, like activities and the budget.
“There are issues that are very close to some of the student council’s hearts and they aren’t there to speak, so I always try my best to make sure that the words that aren’t able to be spoken, are spoken. I try my best to fill in that gap,” he said.
Allen thanked TMHS music director Brian Van Kirk for mentoring him during his school board student representative position. Allen said conversations with Van Kirk helped him better understand the school’s budget issues.
“He is a very honest person, very straightforward. He didn’t beat around the bush. He’s just a really good person to me, a really big influence and help,” Allen said.
It’s the budget process that Allen said he learned the most about during his time with the school board.
“I really did see the struggle with having to finalizing a budget, going through public input, having to listen to every single opinion and then also the opinion of the school board, which was at times diverse and at times same-minded,” he said.
The experience has left a lasting impact.
“I know for a fact that I want to come back to the school board, not as a student representative but as an actual member,” Allen said.
He’s been trying to figure out how to make this happen. One way is interning with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, this summer.
Immediately after first learning about the opportunity in March, Allen worked on applying. He asked principal Daniel Larson to write him a recommendation overnight, filled out the rest of the paperwork and faxed his application the day it was due.
“A week or two later, Lisa Murkowski calls me on my personal cell and says, ‘Kevin, I would like to extend an invite for you to come down here to D.C. during the hottest time of the year.’ I thought, ‘Wow, sure, I could do that,’” he recounted.
Allen leaves Juneau for Washington, D.C. on June 18. It will be his first time there. The internship runs from June 20 to July 8.
“What I’m mainly nervous about is the unexpected. I have absolutely no idea what I’m getting into really. And, well, also the heat, because that’s definitely extremely different than the climate here in Juneau,” Allen said. With the nerves also comes excitement.
“I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how things are at a national level. I’m very interested to see what issues are discussed,” he said. “And I get to see July 4th in the nation’s capital.”
Allen, one of about 330 seniors graduating from Juneau School District on Sunday, doesn’t have plans for the fall yet. Originally he wanted to take a gap year to figure out what he wanted to do. Now that he knows, he’s leaning toward college and taking classes at the University of Alaska Southeast.
But before going to D.C. and perhaps college and whatever else comes after, Allen will take part in high school graduation.
“I am rather happy about graduating. I’m excited to see what opportunities are ahead, as cliché as that may sound. I am genuinely excited for what’s ahead of me,” he said.
• Contact reporter Lisa Phu at 523-2246 or email@example.com
330 seniors from Juneau’s three high schools will be graduating from Juneau School District on Sunday.
Yaakoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School will be graduating 38 seniors at 1 p.m. in Centennial Hall. That’s eight more graduates than last year. Advisors will give speeches about each senior. Student Tiana Huber is also speaking at the ceremony.
Juneau-Douglas High School’s graduation ceremony is at 4 p.m. in the JDHS gym. About 140 students will graduate, which is roughly the same number as last year. Featured speakers are retiring JDHS teacher Sara Hannan and student Grace Rodriguez.
Thunder Mountain High School’s graduation is taking place at 7 p.m. in the TMHS auditorium. The school is graduating 150 students, up from last year’s 122. Speaking at the ceremony are JSD Superintendent Mark Miller, TMHS Principal Daniel Larson, community member Christy NaMee Eriksen, student Lacey Davis, valedictorian Maxell Suzuki and staff speaker Graham Storey.
All high school seniors in the community, including home school and private school students, are invited to attend Sunday night’s Safe Graduation Party run by local nonprofit Parents for Safe Graduation.
The party at Centennial Hall starts at 10 p.m. and lasts until 2:16 a.m. All seniors get in for free and can bring a guest for $10. Participants must bring a student or photo ID. The alcohol- and drug-free event involves food, activities, gift bags, prizes and a drawing for $2,016.